Monday, June 22, 2009


Both Stephen Greenleaf and Stephen Greenleaf Jr. had made good marriages with
women from prominent colonial families. Stephen the elder had married Elizabeth
Coffin, daughter of Tristram Coffin; Stephen Junior married Elizabeth Gerrish,
whose father was Captain William Gerrish.

The Greenleaf, Coffin and Gerrish families ran profitable mercantile and ship
construction businesses in the towns of Newbury and Amesbury as well in Boston.
And despite the religious beliefs of the founding Puritan fathers, the business
world back then was just as competitive as it is today. Take the case of William Gerrish
and Thomas Woodbridge.

Actually, make that cases. They faced each other in court in Essex County at least
three times, twice over debts, and the third time my ancestor William Gerrish took
Thomas Woodbridge to court for slander:

"Capt. Wm. Gerrish v. Thomas Woodbridge. Slander. Withdrawn.:

Caleb Moody testified that he heard Woodbridge say that Captain Gerish was a cheating knave, that he had cheated him out of 180li., and that he had told a damnable or devilish
Sworn in court.

Jno. Joanes and Steven Swet testified. Sworn in court.

Joseph Hills, aged about seventy years, deposed that in the presence of Mr. Henry Sewall
heard Woodbridge say that there were fifty men in Newbury who would say that
Capt. Gerrish
had cheated them and that he would be cast out of the church. Deponent
asked Rev. Mr. Jno.
Woodbridg to give him a meeting at his son's house, which he did,
and said Hills then declared
that the meeting was to prevent contention between Capt.
Gerrish and Woodbridge. Mr. Jno.
Woodbridg said he was very much troubled at his
son's speeches many times and he had
counselled him to moderation, and asked
deponent to advise him how to act. "I answered yt
he was more able to advise himselfe
also ye sd Tho. Woodbridg then said yt what he had spoken
to mee about Cheating he
had spoken to som others and bid them goe tell Capt Gerrish."
Sworn in court.

Anthony Somerby, aged sixty-six years, deposed that Woodbridge said Gerrish had
question cheated the town of Newbury of many a pound, and that he doubted
not that he had
taken away the boards from Mr. Richardsun's house. Sworn in court.

Tristram Coffin, aged forty-four years, deposed that Woodbridge called Capt. Gerrish a cheating knave and that he made a profession of religion to cover his knavery,
deponent advised Woodbridge to be more moderate in his words, for Capt.
Gerrish was a
rational man and would do what was right. Also at said Woodbridge's
house, the latter asked
deponent why he told Gerrish he was drunk. Deponent said he
did not tell him so but he did
say that he believed "that he wass six and twenty."
Woodbridge said that he was as well then
as at this present time, and also that there
were only five men in town who would not say that
Gerrish had cheated them, to
which deponent replied that he had traded with Capt. Gerrish
for many score pounds
and he had never cheated him. Daniell Lunt said the same. Woodbridge
replied that Lunt, deponent and Rich. Doell were three of the five, that he would make Capt. Gerish's house
a dung hill and would make Capt. Gerish "fly the town" or else he should make
him fly
the town, and within eight months he would make it appear what Capt. Gerish was, etc.
Sworn in court."

Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts Vol.VI 1675-
Essex Institute, Salem, Ma. 1917 pp125-126

I think "180li" must be 180 pounds. I'm also not sure what the reference about being "six
and twenty" means in reference to drunkeness unless it was the 17th century equivalent of
"three flags to the wind" or something? I feel some sympathy for poor John Woodbridge
asking for advice in how to deal with his verbose son Thomas!

You can read the particulars of the other two cases in the same book on Googlebooks
which includes very long lists of trade goods with fascinating names!

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